Date Posted: Wednesday, 9 October 2002
I first wrote this description of the role of the keyworker in a children’s home in 1987 and then I modified it in 1991 in an attempt to harmonise it with the spirit of the Children Act 1989 which was just beginning to be implemented. I think it still has a measure of validity and I present it here in the hope that it will at least provide a starting point for those who are developing the keyworker role to suit the current residential child care climate. I further modified the text in October 2008 following comments made by Jane Kenny which can be found at the end of this article.
A prevalent model in current residential child care is to underpin the work of a children’s home with a keyworker system. The keyworker is the specified residential child care worker who is initially responsible for establishing a relationship with the newly arrived child and creating an attachment with the youngster in order that he or she can begin to feel safe in the home. In some children’s home the keyworker is called a linkworker and I have been told that in one therapeutic community the keyworker is called a guru.
A keyworker is usually, though not always, appointed for each new child before the child is admitted to the children’s home. This allows time to prepare for the admission to be made in order that the unique needs of the youngster are considered prior to admission.
As well as being responsible for the fundamental task of developing a helpful, caring attachment relationship with a child during his or her stay at the home, the keyworker is also responsible for assuring the consistency and continuity of the care the children’s home provides the child. In doing this the keyworker also has a role in ensuring the involvement of the young person, his family, his school and other community agencies such as the health services in order that the goals of the child’s care plan can be achieved. The keyworker carries out these tasks with the support of her colleagues and with supervision from her designated senior practitioner or her line manager. In addition to this keyworker works in partnership with the young person’s social worker.
This function is constructed of the following sub-tasks :
1. To be the nominated welcoming and familiar adult for a particular young people when he or she is admitted to the home with the longer term purpose of ensuring the child feels safe and secure during his or her stay at the home. This includes remembering and celebrating the birthdays of each young person as well as other important family days and any religious festivals.
2. In conjunction with other colleagues to be responsible for the overall planning for the young person and for carrying out designated aspects of the care plan.
3. To co-ordinate information about the young person concerning his or her daily life in the children’s home and from his or her life history so it is communicated to colleagues in a way which represents the youngster as a whole person rather than a fragmented and consequently de-personalised one.
4. To communicate the care plan for the young person to colleagues at the home, to report to them regularly on its progress, and to ensure that colleagues have a unified approach to carrying out the care plan.
5. Where necessary after consultation with the keyworker’s line manager as well as the young person to co-opt the use of the special skills of other colleagues for to carry out particular aspects of the care plan.
6. To ensure that all meetings relating to the young person and his or her care plan happen at the stated place and time and to ensure after consultation with the young person, the line manager/supervisor and the social worker that the appropriate people are invited to meetings.
7. Where directed by the line manager/supervisor and through consultation with the young person to provide written reports on the progress of the young person’s care plan for review meetings.
8. To collate, and in consultation with the young person, give information to all relevant meetings concerning the young person.
9. To be the person who instigates action relating to the young person.
10. To provide advise, counselling, help with problem solving, feed-back and care plan evaluation to the young person directly and regularly in formal keywork sessions and in the life space.
11. To respect the young person’s need for confidentiality in relation to his or her life experiences and to share information only with those who have right to know.
12. To be the young person’s advocate in the staff group and where necessary in planning, review and group meetings.
13. To provide a link with the family, school other agencies and the community, in order to provide the young person with easy access to her or his natural social setting and the wider community.
14. To help the young person to prepare for leaving the home when it is the right time for the youngster to move on.
Jane Kenny writes
I know you say it is not an exclusive list. I thought there should be mention of the need to remember and to celebrate birthdays and other important family days and any religious festivals relating to the child I think also there should be some consideration of ‘moving on’ and what is involved in the keyworker’s responsibility to help a child prepare for the end of a placement.
Charles Sharpe replies
These are significant omissions and I will integrate them into the text.
© goodenoughcaring.com and Charles Sharpe